After hitting send, I immediately regretted it. Our conversation turned cold. He had put his heart on the line, only to be met with a wishy-washy response which he took as a midwestern, “no”. The tone in our conversation did a complete 180 from playful and fun immediately to businesslike. I felt a different feeling in my stomach. It wasn’t the nervous excitement I had felt before, it was regret. A feeling like I made a huge mistake. And all of a sudden, I knew I had to see him in person again.
My opportunity came within the next week of work. I was back from the conference to my normal sales territory. Harvest was still in full swing and the weather was right. I had been harvesting seed test plots that week but had an afternoon free and saw my chance.
That morning I had chosen a more form-flattering, still very professional quarter-zip to wear. I brushed my teeth real good, slapped on my favorite chapstick, and feeling the confidence ooze, I texted steel-blue to see what he was up to that day. I wasn’t surprised at all to hear he was harvesting. They were on corn and I asked if I could come out to ride along.
It’s customary for salespeople to ride along with farmers at harvest to talk about the crop and potential for next year. I played it off as another sales call, even telling him I’d be bringing along the salesperson from the co-op with me again.
He told me the field he was at by giving me the intersection of two different roads nearby. I was very unfamiliar with the area and had no idea what he was talking about, he could’ve been sending me directions to another farm for all I knew to keep me out of his space. Eventually, when he gathered I really couldn’t figure it out, he kindly sent me a pin of his location. Our conversation was still pretty cold and professional, but he was nice about it. The salesperson and I drove separately, which was strategic on my part… mostly because I didn’t want to make small talk on the hour drive south with him again.
I was incredibly nervous, so I stopped at a small gas station to pee. I was in Illinois and it wasn’t a Kwik Trip, but I was able to scrounge up some king-size candy bars and sports drinks to offer as a consolation for my visit with him. As I got closer and closer with each turn on my navigation I could feel the nerves building. The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering like crazy. Was I going to puke? I was close to it.
I turned the next corner and felt the sweat building under my armpits. Thank goodness for that spare deodorant I always kept in my center console. I grabbed it out and slathered it on at the last stop sign separating me and steel-blue.
Up ahead I could see the dust from the combine blowing in the wind. I saw the powerful machine making its way slowly and carefully across the long straight rows of the flat field. I turned into the field drive and parked my truck. Stepped out and crunched my boots on the dry, crispy corn stalks. I breathed in the rich harvest air and watched him make his way toward me. We were the closest we had been since the day we met. The anticipation built as he drove closer and closer. I had the bag of gas station goodies in hand as he lifted the combine head to finish the pass he was on.
Then, something unexpected happened. He effortlessly maneuvered the large combine for a 180-degree turn to start the next pass. I eagerly waved to him as he turned, started the next pass, and left me in his dust.
I stood there confused. He clearly knew I was there. Was this payback for me saying, “mmmmm idk?” I knew I deserved it. I thought briefly about hopping back in my truck and moving on. He was upset and no longer interested. But before I could get back into my truck, a tractor and grain cart roared up to meet me in my confused stupor. Jason, their grain cart operator at the time, opened up the door of his tractor and hollered at me to hop in.
I obliged, with a re-ignited hope that he would possibly drop me off with Josh. I climbed up the steps and hopped into the buddy seat next to Jason. I shared half of the gas station goodies with him and we chatted. I found out Jason had been on the farm working alongside Dan, Josh’s dad, for many years since the boys were little. Jason led the conversation and I found out quickly it wouldn’t take much talk from me to keep the conversation going. He was really nice.
We eventually made our way to Josh in the middle of a pass where he needed to unload. He cut an area in the field for the grain cart to sit while he unloaded. I waited patiently for a signal from him to move over to the combine, where I really wanted to be, in the buddy seat, next to him. That signal never came, and Josh fired up the combine head again to continue on.
I looked over to Jason, confused, and said, “is he going to let me ride with him?” Thinking in my head, I totally ruined it with this guy and he only allowed me to come out to this field so he could shut me down as I did to him. Payback. Jason grabbed for the radio and made a sly comment, “are you going to let this pretty girl ride with you?”, he asked. I saw him pull back the joystick slowly and the combine came to a stop once again. He was silent on the radio but I saw his hand motion as he waved me over.
By now my stomach was absolutely in my throat and I was feeling the awkwardness of the situation. I had told him “mmmm… idk”, the midwest “no”, but I still wanted to come out and ride with him. I was throwing this guy who had only been straightforward with me, wishy-washy and confusing vibes and it was clearly not his style.
I made the trek up the combine steps, using my free hand to grab the dusty combine ladder, and he pretended to play on the iPad screen that was recording all his harvest data. I opened the cab door and noticed he had the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up, very unphased at my arrival. He sat there like he could care less that I was going to ride with him. “Another day, another salesperson.” I’m sure that’s the thought that was going through his head. The mood was much different than the first time we met when both of us couldn’t stop our eyes from lighting up. His steel blues seemed to be a little more grey that day.
I plopped down in the buddy seat, gas station bag in hand, wiped my dusty hand on my jeans, and offered him the treats I had picked up. If I were really trying, I would’ve made something homemade, but I didn’t want to overdo it. He grabbed the bag, checked out what I brought, smiled, and thanked me for it. Cold drinks and new snacks are always a welcome sight to a farmer who has spent several 16-hour days in the same cab for weeks on end.
He fired up the combine and we started moving across the rows. To my surprise, the conversation started flowing just as easily as the dry golden corn poured into the grain tank. We talked about anything from harvest and how things were going on the farm, to our families, what we love to do, and all of our interests. We didn’t skip a beat. There weren’t any lulls. I didn’t for a second talk about a prospective seed sale. That was the last thing on my mind.
Brad, the salesperson, made his way out to the field and was in the grain cart with Jason. I didn’t notice right away because I was caught up in conversation and captivated by the man to my right smoothly operating the huge combine with ease.
We laughed and talked, exchanging smiles and flirty glances until I realized it had been 3 hours since I got there. Brad had left the field at some point but I didn’t know when. I was totally caught up in the moment in the cab of that combine.
After glancing at the time on my phone, I knew I should get going. At that point, I figured Josh’s dad and brother were wondering what we could possibly be talking about for that long, and I didn’t want any rumors to start.
I knew one thing. At this point, I wanted to get to know him better. There was something different about him. I had never had a conversation with someone I barely knew flow so effortlessly.
So, before I left the combine, I asked if the offer for dinner was still out there. He didn’t hesitate or say, “mmmmm…. Idk.” He said, “Yes”.